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tv   Memoirs of a Secretary at War  CSPAN  January 20, 2014 1:45pm-3:01pm EST

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other booktv viewers, go to booktv.org: you can pick up the liberty amendments, you can read along, and then you can post your comments at booktv.org. it's very simple, just click on the book club tab up at the top of the page, and you'll see there there's a format for posting your comments, and you can read along all month on your own time. we'll be posting questions and comments as we go throughout the month on the liberty amendments. mark levin, thanks for your time today on booktv. >> guest: great honor, pete, thank you." >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your televisioning provider. >> next, robert gates at the national constitution center in philadelphia. he discussed his memoir, "duty."
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in the book mr. gates, who served as secretary of defense under president george w. bush and president obama, talks about his management of the wars in afghanistan and iraq, and he shares stories about his relationship with the white house and congress. [applause] >> secretary gates, i also want to thank you for being here, especially in light of the fact that you've recently had an injury. i know you're making a robust recovery, but having to wear a neck brace is surely -- has surely complicated your being here and getting here, and we thank you for making that effort. >> until i became secretary of defense, i had never broken a bone or had a surgery. [laughter] february of 2008 i fell on the ice and broke this shoulder in three places. ten months later putting a snowplow blade on a tractor, i pulled the bicep tendon off arm. my security guards quickly came
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to the conclusion that al-qaeda was no risk to me at all compared to myself. [laughter] and before we start, i'd like to say it is good to be back here at the center and to apologize to the audience on my right for not turning in your direction. but the result of a broken member is somewhat limited mobility of my head. >> well, let's -- that being said, let's get to your book, "duty: memoirs of a secretary of war." i found it a most striking account of your time under both president bush and president obama not the least because it gave what i would call an almost realtime account of your interchanges with president obama and the former secretary of state, hillary clinton, as you and other very top members of the nation's security establishment, as you wrestled
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with the difficulties on the ground this afghanistan. and i'd like to talk to you at some length about your impressions of president obama. but before we get into that, i wanted to focus on a part of the book that hasn't gotten that much attention but which i think is equally important, and that's your description of the situation in the government, in the white house when you took over as secretary of defense in december of 2006. you describe a dire situation in iraq. american troops are dying at increasing rates, the insurgents are gathering force, there's extreme, explosive sectarian violence and no apparent plan on the part of the united states government for coping with that. the takeaway there that part of the book -- from that part of the book is that we hadn't planned properly for the occupation. and that, indeed, it never
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occurred to military planners that we might be there as long as we had. why were we so mistaken on that point? why do we miss that? >> one of the concluding sections of the book is, this effect, on lessons learned about war. and one of the thicks that -- one of the things that you'd think people would understand would be how frequently people who advocate going to war and people who make decisions to go to war almost always are convinced the war will be short. this year we'll celebrate the centenary of world war i which is a classic example of where everybody thought the war would be over by october or thof, 914 -- november, 1914. the problem in iraq in particular, and it really is true of both iraq and afghanistan, that what began as
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swift military victories quickly degenerated into long and grinding wars. in the case of iraq, it was always believed that it would be a short-term commitment. i think it would be interesting to ask those who were participants in the decision making add they known this march -- had they known in march 2003 that the country would be at war in iraq for six or seven more years whether they would have made the decision they did. but this assumption that the war would be short or that its end was right around the corner afflicted the department of defense as badly as it did the decision makers themselves. and because everyone assumed that the war would be over quickly, there was a great reluctance inside defense to
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spend significant sums of money on equipment that might be needed to protect the troops, but that might be useful only in iraq or afghanistan. as i describe it this the book, the department -- this the book, the department of defense is organized to plan for war, not to wage war. and so the services dedicate all of their efforts, pretty much all of their efforts to developing their long-range procurement plans and then defending those plans in the budget process regardless of what comes along. and so people were reluctant to, for example, fund, develop and fund the mine-resistance ambush protect about the vehicles that save so many lives and limbs because that particular kind of vehicle was not in any plan for the army or the marine corps -- >> i'd like to ask you about that in just a moment.
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one of the key themes in that portion of the book, it seems to me, that the military planners inside the beltway, civilian leaders inside the beltway simply didn't adjust or respond to it. and, in fact, you do write they did not adjust to changing situations on the ground in iraq. >> well, that and the fact i also write that after the initial invasion there was just a series of stunningly bad decisions and mistakes. >> well, i'd like to read a portion of the book, a situation that came across to me as scandalous. and i say this also because you heap quite a bit of raise on president bush in this -- praise on president bush in this. and i think your critique of the president and the much-reported critiques of president obama have missed the point in that they're part of a larger fabric in evaluation of both of these men which is much more nuanced than we've gotten so far. but let me read this one portion which describes what i think is a scandalous situation.
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our fundamentally flawed and persistent assumption from the outset that the iraq war would be a short one caused problems on the ground and for the troops as the months stretched into years, those at senior levels clung to their assumption and seemed unwilling to invest substantial dollars to provide the troops everything they needed for protection and success in their mission and to bring them home safely, and if wounded, provide them with the best care. who wanted to spend precious dollars on equipment for today's troops that after iraq would be, would just be surplus? so for years in iraq, our troops traveled in light vehicles like humvees, the modern equivalent of a jeep, that even with armoring were vulnerable to weapons such as rocket- propelled grenades and explosive projectiles. were people asleep at the
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switch? why did they not respond to casualties were increasing, what we were doing in iraq was not working? were they not visiting the country enough? were they getting bad information? why was there such bureaucratic resistance to making change? >> well, i think as i indicated earlier, i think they kept thinking that the end of the war was right around the corner. throughout 2006 commander in the field until the fall of 2006, our commander in baghdad was still planning to draw down from 15 to 10 brigades by the end of 2006. and only realized toward the end of 2006 that wouldn't be possible. actually, the first person, i think, seriously to conclude that the strategy wasn't working was president bush. and i think that happened probably in the late spring or summer of 2006. there were several different
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reviews launched of our strategy including the most important one was probably led by the national security council staff which then led to the president's decision to surge troops to get control of the security situation particularly in baghdad. this is a case, and i pointed out, you know, it's been presented mostly in a negative light, but i don't think it's a negative consideration that both bush and obama pushed back against the generals. in the case of iraq of 2006, it was the civilian leadership that decided the strategy wasn't working, not the military. and when bush decided to support the iraq surge, he was opposed by the entire joint chiefs of staff, the chairman of the joint chiefs, the theater commander, the commander in baghdad and the
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commander of central command in florida. >> but i must ask you, though, i mean, you can hardly characterize that as a brilliant insight. the entire country seemingly had turned against the war because we were not doing well there. why did the generals, why were they so late when everybody else had decided this was not going well? >> i wish i had an explanation for that. i wasn't there. i think that they, i think they had concluded that their view was that more troops would aggravate the situation rather than help it. that it would let the iraqis off the hook in terms of assuming responsibility for their own security and that it would, and that the iraqis were expecting to see a reducing u.s. presence, not an increasing one. >> like to ask you one other question on this subject. you write in the book that general shinseki famously
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predicted at a congressional hearing that an occupation would have required, would require -- this is before the invasion, i think, in march of, whenever it occurred -- that a occupation would require hundreds of thousands of troops. was he right? would that have been a better approach? >> well, i think that the initial -- this goes back to the mistakes that i think were made after the original invasion. had the iraqi army not been disbanded which was one of those catastrophic mistakes in my view turning 400,000 men who didn't know anything else except how to shoot into the civilian economy with no support for their families was just a formula for disaster. if those troops, if we had done our best to keep the iraqi army coherent but with different
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leadership, then you probably would not have seen the looting that took place in baghdad and elsewhere, and you might have had greater civil order that would have prevented the sectarian violence that became so bad by 2006. so the number of troops required after the invasion in part depended on making smart decisions about what we would do next in iraq. i wrote -- i said in a speech in may of 2003, just six weeks after the invasion, that now that we had overthrown saddam, it reminded me of the situation where the dog catches the car. now what do you do with it? and i said at the time if we have more than 100,000 troops in iraq for more than a few months, we will be in serious trouble.
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and i said i thought that the political part of this would be far more difficult than the original envision. so -- invasion. so i think if different decisions had been head in that period after the original -- had been paid in that period after the original invasion, then you might have had a different outcome. but we ended up with what we did. and people seemed unwilling to stick their neck out to say that was a really stupid decision. debaathification, i mean, i write in the book it's like nobody ever read a book about the denaziification and the fact that if you ran the local power plant, you still had to be a member of party. that didn't mean you were himmler's best friend. the same thing this iraq. you had to be a member of the baath party, so just being oblivious to those kinds of things led to some amazingly stupid decisions.
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>> it wasn't a matter of their military infrastructure being dissolved, but also the bureaucracy as well -- >> exactly. >> -- which i think disappeared overnight and left you without nothing. i have to ask you -- >> i mean, it goes in a way, and it goes to the equipment question you asked me. secretary rumsfeld famously said to a soldier, you go to war with the army you have. and that's true. but what i add is, then you better make it into the army that you need as fast as you can. and that's what i think we did not do. ... >> i have to ask you this. you mention this mentioned this and i think that i have this right. that your good friend i think it was the first bush administration that opposed the invasion in iraq. and i'm wondering, you never really address that issue as far
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as you are concerned. have you been asked a part of these, would you have supported this? >> in the last chapter, sort of summing up a reflection that i don't know and it's hard for me to say what i would have advocated in 2003. like a lot of people in the congress and most other countries in the world, initially they all accepted this and that is how the u.n. security council got past with even russia and china. and so in that speech that i reviewed two, i supported the original decision and so i say in the book toward the end that,
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you know, i had argued strongly against going to baghdad in 1991 in the first world war because that would have meant to overthrow the regime and to get saddam would have meant occupying two thirds of iraq and then it would be our problem. until we were unanimous in the first bush administration in opposing the idea and we took a lot of grief for it or not part of this. we cannot get the criticism after march of 2003 anymore. but i argued maybe i would've made the same argument that i did in 1991 about going to baghdad. i also might have been far more skeptical because of my intelligence back then and the intelligence case that he had
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weapons of mass destruction and others were around the on the table this because i have a pretty good view and intelligence capability. and so to be honest i think it is hard for me to say what i would've advocated in 2003 with 10 years of hindsight. >> can you talk about your effort to get these vehicles for the troops in iraq? you are surprised to learn that there were these vehicles and developments in these mine resistant ambush and so how did you get that? a noted that senator biden was a target of much of your criticism. >> yes, and i give him credit for it. and actually it is a lesson that
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i tried to hammer home to the military leaders with when they read criticism in newspapers want to go into eight defensive mode but to find out whether the newspaper series in "the washington post" had put me on to the problem of wounded warriors and let me to fire the secretary of the army. he was a newspaper story that i first read about this. and the marines had about 300 vehicles and he was riding in one of these vehicles. and i wanted to buy these things in large numbers.
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and so i basically said, well, we are going to do it. and this is one place that i'm very critical of the congress in this book are that this is the one place that they did the right thing and we ended up buying 27,000 of these vehicles for iraq and afghanistan. when i first visited the army burn unit at the dick army hospital in san antonio is absolutely full because most of those young men had been in humvees that had blown up and became part of them. by the time that i was within six months, the burn unit was
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nearly empty and so ultimately everybody came around to the fact that this is a good idea and looks good on that probably because i said so. the secretary of defense and there was a lot of opposition and again because these vehicles were not in anyone's long-term procurement plan. they were more worried about what they would do with them after the war and what good they might do in the war. my attitude is particularly when you're dealing with the lives of young men and women, it is when you are in a war you are all in whatever it takes to protect them or give them the tools to do the job and come home safely. you make that investment and if you have all this stuff at the end of the war, so be it. >> is one of the most disturbing elements because it was a mailable to the military to say
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okay, now we have reasons of bureaucratic agendas and it wasn't implemented. so how do you fix a problem like that going forward? it seems that that is cultural and the culture survived. >> it is a leadership issue. and i will give you another example. it's even more shocking in my view. and the time for medevac anorak was an hour. it was called the golden hour the wounded and getting to the hospital within an hour. in afghanistan it was two hours. and i said i think it should be an hour. just like in iraq. in both senior officials came to me and had all of these statistics about how the death rates were comparable and in
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iraq and afghanistan despite the time difference and so on because it was statistically a wash. it wasn't worth the investment to put additional resources into it. and so my reaction was a simple one. i'm a soldier that had been blown up and i want a helicopter there as quickly as possible. and so we sent more helicopters and i made that decision in january of 2008 or 2009. i can't remember which. and by july something like 80% are medical decorations are taking place in less than 40 minutes. ..
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is that there are so many different elements the department of defense who have to be on board. who have to agree the money people or the technology people or the budget tiers orements whatever.ey people basically slow down only the he e has thauthority toverr sec mmitment to getting this thing done. i wanted to ask you.
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>> there's nothing like getting the attention of the senior military and the pentagon as a whole. likes firing some people. >> which he did a lot of from what i read in the book. >> my attitude was in the case of both walter reed and the nuclear issue which is back in front of us, when i fired both chief of staff and secretary of the air force didn't fire them for not knowing about the problem in the first place. i fired them because once they knew about it they didn't take it seriously enough. that is the kind of accountability that i think needs to be exercise more frequently in washington. speeds and she brought up the issue of firing how did you feel about losing stanley mcchrystal? >> well at first, i mean i felt he committed a terrible error and i say so in the book. giving access to this reporter and mcchrystal is probably one of the most effective combat generals we have had since world war ii.
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both as commander in afghanistan and as commander of the joint special operations unit in iraq and afghanistan. he did a lot of damage to our enemies and the people who were killing our troops. but the world of politics and the media was the new battle space for general mcchrystal and he was, he was a brand-new second lieutenant and that realm. and as effective as he was in the command position, he stepped out of line on some of his interviews. but i felt, when the report, when the article came out about him with the quotes that seem to disparage the vice president and the national security adviser and others, my worry was that if he was relieved, that we might lose the war in afghanistan right then and there.
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we now had, by that time time we have a timeline and the president had decided, which i supported, of being all out, all of our combat troops out by the end of 2014 and he got along well with karzai. he knew the battle plan. he knew the brigade commanders. there was a family or the there and i worry that finding a replacement would take months to get confirmed and then more months to get acclimated enough to speed. so i was deeply worried that relieving mcchrystal would be a huge step back in the war, and then it was the president in discussing whether to relieve mcchrystal who said, how about david petraeus to take over? and immediately, and i give the president a lot of credit for the idea because it hadn't even occurred to me that alleviated a lot of my concerns because petraeus knew the battle plan
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ended the brigade commanders, new karzai and had a good relationship with him and so on. so i felt like we really wouldn't lose much time in the war if mcchrystal were replaced by petraeus. and i told, as i say in the book, you know i wish stan had given me something to defend him with that the story was wrong in some particulars but as i write in the book it was sort of like he was at west point again and just saying no excuse. so under those conditions as i write in the book, that the president had no choice but to relieve him. >> i've found that part little bit puzzling although there was a history as you point out and for those in the audience who don't knows danley mcchrystal was a special operations commander who had tremendous success in iraq before and going into afghanistan, was a war hero
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and had taken out of the battle this feared al qaeda commander zarqawi i think it was an instrumental in the dash of saddam hussein. he made some very unfortunate and candid remarks to "rolling stone" reporter. when he was called out on the carpet and this was after i gather he had made some other unfortunate remarks in london, not sensational but rather off the reservation and not closely tracking with the presidents preferred policy positions, making a president mad. he had already had a couple of strikes against him when this came up. you said general mcchrystal didn't take any steps to defend himself, even though there was possibly an argument that he could've used. why? >> well, first of all i think stan, i'm assuming some things
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here because i never really had a detailed conversation with stan about why he didn't defend himself, only that he didn't. but i think that he knew he had made the decision to allow this nontraditional reporter to be a part of his entourage. i think he was stunned by the article and he may not -- an army inspector general report suggests he may not have known about a lot of the statements that were made by his staff to this reporter. and so i think he didn't quite know how to respond. he didn't want to throw his staff under the bus, so i think he did what he saw as the ethical thing for a commander to do under the circumstances, which was to take the hit. >> one question.
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>> let me just say to build on your observations, i mean there was a lot of goodwill toward general mcchrystal in the white house because during the fall of 2009 and we have are debating options for afghanistan, including whether to go with what he had recommended, this 40,000 additional troops or other options with smaller numbers that have been advocated by the vice president and others, there were a number of leaks in public statements by the military including by general mcchrystal that made it appear to the white house that, and to the president, that the military was trying to box him in and force his hand to adopt their option in terms of the 40,000 troops. i tried to convince the president that i could see where this suspicion came from because
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of these leaks and public statements. the president sought and others around him vice president and others saw it as an orchestrated campaign by the military leadership. i tried to argue that it was not a campaign, not orchestrated that if it had been orchestrated they would have been a lot smarter about it. but i was unsuccessful in that. but it did lead to an undercurrent of ill will toward him that when this article then came out about six months later he really didn't have a cushion. >> that was the last straw and i think as you write in your book that actually describe this as a pretext that the vice president used to have mcchrystal fired. >> well the way i describe it is that i think mcchrystal handed his opponents in the white house the ammunition with which to get rid of him. >> i want to talk to you very
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briefly about the geopolitical battles in washington and on the capital. do you do not paint a flattering picture and this is not big news of our political process in washington. what struck me was your very detailed accounts of interactions with democratic and republican members of congress who behind closed doors would tell you that the policies that you are promoting were actually things that had to be done or should be done or are going in the right direction but when it came out and face the clean lights and spoke to the press, there was a totally opposite description of the situation and they were highly critical of the president and of the pentagon. you have been in washington or you have been in government a long time. do you think that our dysfunctional politics are any different from the way they have ever been? >> well television contributes. i say in the book that when the
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red light on the television camera would go on in a hearing, it had the effect on members of congress of a full moon on werewolves. [laughter] and i guess the way i would put it in the way i write about it in the book is their politics in this country, as this center makes so clear, have been rough and tumble from the very beginning and quite vituperative even george washington in his second term came in for a lot of hits as did all of his successors. but what is different now and what has happened over the last i would say quarter of a century is that we have lost -- the congress has lost the ability to do the people's business. so, it's one thing to argue and fight and say terrible things about each other. that's been going on tour whole history, but the inability to pass legislation to deal with
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serious problems i think is a relatively new phenomenon. and some of it is institutional and has to do with gerrymandering and the fact that in the house maybe only 50 or 60 seats are not competitive, and so the only elections that really matter in a lot of cases are the primaries where you have got to repeal to your party space where do you are at rat or a republican. and what we have for the first half of my career were what i would describe as a large numbee senate, of senators who were centerleft, center right and figured out ways to put together coalitions and get import legislation passed. the list will be familiar to all of you but these bridge builders as far as i was concerned are people like phil cullen and bill bradley, jack danforth, john warner, david warren, sam nunn,
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nancy castle bomb, republicans and democrats in the list goes on and maybe the last one to leave because of frustration was olympia snowe. so you have this large number of people, most of whom could have been reelected forever who left in disgust because they couldn't get anything done. i think that is the new phenomenon over the last couple of decades that is especially worrying. now the other theme though in this book and i think this is an important point to make, despite my frustrations and even my anger at the congress, the reality is i got a lot of things done with the congress. most of my predecessors, it you are lucky, could get two or three or four big military procurement programs canceled that were over cost, overdue are no longer relevant. i cut nearly three dozen and ended up getting congressional
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approval or acquiescence in all of them. i cut almost 200 lien dollars out of the pentagon's overhead, and even eliminated a combatant command. i got the congress to support me on that. partly it was because i had an enormously strong supporter president obama and a veto threat behind me but it was also working across the aisle with members of congress of both parties and figuring out how to move the agenda forward. and so i argue at the end of the book that you know we do have these institutional problems such as gerrymandering, what i consider the weakening of the role of congress in governance because of the weakening of the committee chairs and a variety of other things. but at the end of the day, the problem you can begin to i think address the paralysis.
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not necessarily the polarization but the paralysis by people, by people at the white house and people in the congress beginning to treat each other more civilly. by people being willing to listen and take ideas from the other side, of not demonizing the other side, not distorting the facts purposely. i think they're a bunch of things just in terms of the way people treat each other in washington that could change the tone and the reason, the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee when i first became secretary a few months and told me that my arrival had been important because i changed the tone of the way that the debate was being carried on in iraq and other things. so i was able, the undercurrent of this book was i was able to make washington work but the way
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you make it work is through the way you treat people. >> since we are on the subject of politics and we are running out of time very quickly i want to ask you, you mention deep in the book there's a little description of a phonecall you had gotten from the summit democratic leader harry reid who wanted the defense department he said to spend some money and research on irritable syndrome. this is while you were dealing with yours in iraq and afghanistan. there's a great deal of danger here deploying certain metaphors and i'm going to try and avoid that. how did that conversation go? [laughter] >> i very politely told him that i would look into it. [laughter] he came out yesterday and was very critical of the book to which my response was, you know it's just a fact of life that members of congress vote on things they haven't even read. [laughter] [applause]
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>> well as they say you have to pass the bill to find out what's in it areas he actually actually called you on point and asked if you would be interested in running with president obama as its vice presidential candidate. how did that conversation go? >> it was one of the more bizarre conversations i think i've ever had. he called up and we were talking about something else and all of a sudden he said, i was largely responsible for getting, talking president obama into running for president. i heard that from a lot of people on the hill. and he said that there is no candidate for vice president. how long have you been a registered republican? i said well i'm not actually a registered republican. he said well where do you stand on abortion? i said i don't have a stand on abortion.
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it's not something that has ever come into the national security arena. he said how long were you in academic? i said not all that long. he said something might come of all of this are nothing but i just wanted to check. i hung up the phone and i just started to laugh and said that's really weird. [laughter] and as i say in the book i never told anybody about it because i didn't think anybody would believe me. [laughter] >> that you did end up working for the president nonetheless. one serious issue that has been raised by this book and i think the way the government functions came up early on in the coverage of the book was there was a lot of hammering about these conversations you had with president obama and the focus is always on the conversations with president obama, not with president bush but you revealed much there as well. they were held in confidence and that indeed, the president often invokes executive religion
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congress to prevent exactly this kind of information from coming out in the public so that there could be a free flow of ideas in that kind of free exchange of information. how did you work through the ethics of that? i came away thinking this was actually a public service that people learn a lot about the way their senior government leaders make very difficult decisions both republican and democrat but you are disclosing something and i have no doubt that both presidents didn't anticipate that this would be in the book. how did you work through that? >> well i think first of all, i think modern presidents have pretty realistic expectations about what will be written, but that said, from my standpoint there were a couple of things that were important. the first is if you actually read the book, the conversations
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i describe almost entirely paint these presidents in a positive light. because it shows them pushing back against the military, asking hard questions, not being being -- not allowing themselves to be spoonfed information and not just acquiescing because some guy with four stars on his shoulders said we ought to do thus and so so it shows these presidents doing what i think americans would hope their commander in chiefs would do. and it underscores that these two presidents, just like almost all of their predecessors, have disagreed with the military at various times and made decisions that the military had not recommended. the second piece of this is, this book is dedicated to the men and women of the u.s. armed forces and i wrote this book in substantial measure for the troops and their families. one of the things i wanted them to see under both of these
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presidents and in both iraq and afghanistan, i wanted them to see what the washington battles based look like. they knew what iraq and afghanistan looks like but i wanted them to have some insight into the real world of what was going on in washington as big issues associated with these wars were discussed. and to give them some sense of the passion and the amount of time spent debating these issues and the decisions that they would make. and i think that it is a realistic portrayal of the wars that were being fought in ching 10 at the same t and final point, people, you know, people's memories are short, especially in washington, but the reality is all through 2010, senior white house
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staffers were leaking what the president was thinking, what his conversations were, his criticisms of the military, and so on and so forth. on a routine basis in the newspaper, so the notion that what i -- what i describe in the book is the president's growing reservations about the decisions he had made is absolutely no news. the newspapers were full of that information. .. information all through 2010 in the first part of 2011. >> i do agree with you. your descriptions of vote osha and president obama are often very laudatory but there is quite a bit of critical commentary and there is well and one portion of this book strikes me as very much in that vein. you take president obama to task for being what i would
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characterize as an uninspiring military leader. he didn't bring enthusiasm to his role role as commander-in-chief especially with regard to the afghanistan war and you i think had a conversation with rahm emanuel where you made that point that the soldiers needed to hear that the president was behind what you called the mission. so, that is -- and you chew that conclusion from your interactions with him and general counsels. >> yeah, and trying to weigh iis a balan in an intravenous tube with the sound balance it, supported increasing role one of y presidt obama's decisions including the decision to seek the strategic agreement with the residual force after the end of this year. but there were two aspects of that troubled me.
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one was the of presidents suspension of the motives of the military particularly when it came to their recommendations on afghanistan, and the second was what you described to and that they speak out on exit strategies and so on. but the troops need to hear from their commander the person who is sending them in harm's way that mccaw's is just and noble and therefore the sacrifice is worth while. in the two and a half years that i worked for president obama he only did not once or twice, and i think that is one of the responsibilities of the commander in chief.
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he plays a publicly as to why that is important and why the potential sacrifice is worth while. >> i raise it directly and i said the president has to take ownership of this war and i think on a few occasions i mentioned to the president that he ought to say more about why it's important to do this, that the interesting thing is once he made this decision in november of 29, where he overrode above political advisers to approve the surge other than the initial speech at west point on december
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december 1st, there wasn't any kind of white house effort over the ensuing months for there to be any kind of a campaign with of the american public to tell them why those decisions were important and white -- why the cause was an important. >> you mentioned that you had urged the senior white house not to weaken the information because to kill osama bin laden and the information was out in five hours. who released the information? >> of the department of defense wrote the book, so i'm not trying to defend that they are innocent although the defense department is a very good about moving secret military plans and tactics and techniques that might put the troops lives at risk. so in this case my belief is i
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described we are at the very end of our time in the situation room and we know that he's back in jalalabad and he is on his way to a grave and we are about to break up as the president is going upstairs to address the nation and tell them about this extraordinary success, and i said look, we use these tactics and techniques going after taliban and al qaeda leaders. so it's important everybody agreed and not go into any details about the operation and how we did it and as you say i right in the book that lasted for about five hours and everybody agreed after i need this pitch we wouldn't do this
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and all lasted about five hours. i believe that they primarily came from the white house and the cia who couldn't wait to brag about how good this had been. and then i think about two weeks later, the defense probably started to china in. >> but you right there is a downside to doing that because the model was done every night in afghanistan and iraq to apprehend and moved the battle and there was a significant cost to that. we have questions in the audience i would like to pose to you. is their anything that you did that you wish you could have
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done a and you write about the difficulty coping with the casualties and that part of the book was well written and i recommend people focus on that. i think that i am blonde and candid in describing the mistakes that others have made and equally in describing mistakes i think that i need and to answer the question one for example is sial laude thoroughly dysfunctional chain of command problem in afghanistan to continue where the u.s. and afghanistan didn't have the command over all of the american
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troops serving in afghanistan, and while i asked the chairman of the joint chiefs to try to fix at it was ultimately mauney responsibility and i took too long. i finally fixed it. that's just one example. >> to follow that you write that richard holbrooke, the special envoy and i think coral, the ambassador were working to the election campaign of harm to the co -- hamid karzai. you didn't seem happy about that. what happened? >> she may have his own shortcomings but he knows what is going on in the capitol, so the idea that we could do this and not know that we were trying to get rid of it was pretty nice
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in my view. when you see what he creates for us, his knowing that for all practical purposes in the summer of 2009 it probably didn't help the relationship. >> here is a statement on a flat out position paper. thank you for your commitment protecting the family. get well soon, god speed. [laughter] >> it is my understanding that the joint chair is responsible to the president. what a valuable input to do we
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lose when the chairman is with a domineering secretary of defense? >> i think the chain of command actually does not include the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff nor does it include the vice president. it goes from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commander. so under the national security act of 1947, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff is one of the statutory advisers, one of only two. the letter is the head of intelligence. he is the president's senior military adviser and the chairman of the joint chiefs. if he has no direct command authority. and i would say both president bush and president obama gave the joint chiefs including the chairman of the time they
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wanted. and in my experience, and i watched two different chairmen under two different presidents and i never saw either of them be obsequious or the president tried to intimidate them or sort of dampen their views by being sarcastic or harsh in solving or intimating in any way. both of these presidents, despite the fact that they disagreed with the chairman on a number of occasions were very respectful and gave them all kinds of time and i always made sure -- first of all i considered it critical for me to get the most blunt possible at
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at fais from my senior military officials. this will probably have to be bleak but when it came time for me to decide whether to extend the military to our in iraq or afghanistan for 12 to 15 months, i was working with of the military trying to decide this was a difficult decision and i knew that it would have big consequences for the military families. and by senior military adviser comes to me at one point and says the troops know you have to make this decision and they think that you are an asshole for not making it. that's what i try to encourage among the senior military and i believe that you have a very good relationship with them and they would disagree on more than one occasion. the number of drums was another
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so why try to encourage the environment where they would be honest and candid, and i think any secretary of defense for president who doesn't want that is making a terrible and dangerous mistake. >> this seemed to be endless frustration of president bush and president obama on the joint chiefs chairman on a number of occasions. >> it wasn't just like, it was a number of other senior military and their frustration and patients was not over with a senior military would tell them in a situation room or in the oval office or even an open testimony. it's what they would say in the television interviews and things like that that's what got under their skin. >> and i could see why it would.
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there was a difficult line to draw. you want to get good advice that you would need and expect a certain level of transparency from the leaders, and yet and military leader off the reservation and pursuing and promoting the policy agenda that differs with the white house and seems that there could be tremendous difficulties. ischemic pursuing an agenda from the white house speaking out about things that in some way or another limit the president's options and telegraph consequences that may be the president would keep private during the period of deliberation. it's the consequences of senior military speaking out too often in areas which are not necessarily their direct responsibility for in terms of
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pre-empting the president. >> i have another question here. which book tour interview have you enjoyed the most, charlie rose or jon stewart and now it has to be this stop. [laughter] >> the interviews with jon stewart and charlie rose were somewhat different in nature. >> do you think the united states should adopt a place in the draft? >> if i could wave a magic wand, what i would favor is required national service that isn't limited to the military.
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i believe that every young person in america between the ages of 18 to 28 or 254 welford ought to spend a year or two or three in the service giving back to the country something in exchange for what they've been given. we hear so much in this country about our rights as citizens and so little about our obligations as citizens and so whether it is tutoring the inner-city of rural schools were working in hospitals teach for america and new version of the civilian conservation corps.
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you commit for three years that may be get paid significantly more than other areas partly because of the risk and so on. it's whether such a service would be required. but the voluntary peace would involve some measure of pressure if you had not performed the national service the submissions for the universities in the hiring process for jobs that in other words this would come to be seen as a moral and ethical obligation on the part of the young person and if you chose not to serve.
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but i strongly believe that there ought to be forthcoming do it find the military leadership is totally against the draft but i think it ought to be brought to the service ought to be broadened for everybody. what do you see as the greatest threat to the security of the united states? >> in all honesty, the greatest immediate threat to the united states is in fact the paralysis that we see in the square miles that encompass the white house. if we can't begin seriously to address the problems that we face with its education or immigration or the deficit or the national debt and a host of
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other problems none of those problems can be solved in the span of one presidency or congress. so the only way that we can make headway against those problems is through bipartisan solutions that can be sustained through more than one presidency in the congress. and if we can't begin to get past this paralysis in washington if you want to talk about national security issues, i think we have to worry about cyber, we have to worry about the terrorists in the country with weapons of mass destruction and we have to worry about iran and north korea and something it inadvertently creating a crisis in the south china sea. those are not there in the horizon as far as i am concerned as significant problems, but the biggest challenge that we face in our own house in order.
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[applause] during their recent trip to chattanooga tennessee we took a
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tour of the civil war papers of john wilder a native northerners who relocated to the south after he attacked a union officer during the civil war. >> collections at university of tennessee chattanooga. the papers that we have here at the university collections acquired around 1960. the father wrote to the mother in indiana during the war. after the war we did with a lot of union officers to become he moved to chattanooga from the midwest and became a prominent businessman. he was an entrepreneur and open up several hotels and was always
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working new adventures and money-making opportunities and stay with them two or three years and start something else. he was also the mayor in 1870 and the postmaster as well, so he was sort of a prominent citizen of the late 1800's. then in the war for one of the interesting things is the letters start off like letters that we use to write a always started by asking the person why haven't you written more? i haven't received a letter from you sort of complaining about that, but i think that back during the civil war they had this particular route people writing the troop movement details in world war ii especially the soldiers littered had to be censored by the. this gives information about
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what they are planning and what they are planning to do and a lot of information about the mission's the troops went on and the skirmishes and the battles. i find one very interesting that he wrote. his position missed out on the battle of shiloh but he writes home on april 16th come 1862 she's writing what he sees on the battlefield just a day after the battle and since i will not attempt to tell you what they're all full destruction on the battleground which covers the space of about 25 square miles. every acre when we came here. there were about to, probably about 3,000 all dead. hundreds of trees shivered, gun carriages, horses by the droves, heads, arms, embodies all around
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combined to make up the picture of horrors that would be to the political leaders to look on me and if they did not then they would learn to mind their own business and be made a part of that. he was one of the first officers to eclipse the soldiers with the repeating rifle and that gave his troops a big advantage over the single rifles that most of them used. they could fire seven shots for shooting and reload so he gained an upper hand on the confederate troops during the war. because of them getting the repeater rifles they were just the legal position to be to encounter and it was because of that 18 known prior to that they had been known as the hatchet brigade for can't necessities.
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he also was instrumental in the battle across the bottle border into georgia and he helped protect general george thomas who later became now known and he protected the troops at the last part of the war. after the adelbert in the late summer at 63, he was pretty much done with the war and he went home for the remainder of the year. when he rejoined and early 1864 he was at a very reduced capacity and i believe about halfway through the war she was pretty much done and then he did receive the motion to the rank of brigadier general at that time but most of what he accomplished he did as a colonel. this letter he writes from the
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camden kentucky january 18th come 1862 he writes i've not written for some time as i have been quite sick with pneumonia and was taken at new year's day and not quite ready for duty but expect to be able lamb monday to resume work. we are lobbying here still and no prospect for an advance on the enemy. our men are about half fit for duty. this is the unhealthy mister kemp i have ever seen. western virginia, no comparison to us. did you see the soldier and officer riding home during the war and was a war that he had enlisted in the he wasn't drafted, but there was a good historical account of the of things that they faced and the obstacles and the triumphs that they had, but it was a hard line that a lot of people don't realize the casualties in the civil war and the illness and
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sickness and while they certainly experienced that and he writes periodically throughout the war i'm not feeling well and is carried out by ambulance. and it's obvious from some that when he was in the middle of some of the hardest fighting he was sick and he was able to still lead his men and as soon as the battle was over he collapsed and they would teach him to the hospital where he would recover or go home to recover. one thing that is insignificant in his career in the fall of 1862, he was sent when he was home in indiana gathering of a cruise, he was taking them back to the battlefield. there is going to be a pretty
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big battle. but he went up there with a couple hundred troops and got completely surrounded by the confederate army of about 50,000. they went to the confederate camp and they sought out of the confederate officer he understood was a gentleman. i'm sure that he planned something to the effect i am not military trained, what should an officer do in this situation we're in pretty much told not to surrender and you say that you've surrounded me with 50,000 men with a couple or maybe 500 can i see proof that your army is as big as this and as an
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officer this is not how the war is fought. they gave a tour of the confederate army and saw that he was outnumbered at that point. he was sent home and about two or three months later the union army worked out an exchange where he could come back m. she was hanging out left to dry and was able to hold off an army that out number of his probably
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100 to one if not a thousand to one for several days. for more about the visit to chattanooga tennessee and the ever cities visited by the local content of vehicles, go to c-span.orglocalcontent. >> examines the lead up to world war i. this is just over an hour. >> welcome everybody to today's i uncil on foreign relations.
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